Anthony Mackie: 'Hollywood Cares More About Hobbits Than the World In Which They Live'


The last year's been good to Anthony Mackie. Not only did he star in one of the most acclaimed and awarded movies of 2008, Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker, but he's got Night Catches Us at Sundance, where he acts opposite Kerry Washington as a former Black Panther.

Mackie's always a fun, candid interview subject, and when Movieline spoke to him just before the festival began, the 30-year-old actor opened up about his new film, his bold Bigelow prediction, and the problems he's faced lately in Hollywood.

You're coming to Sundance this year, right?

I'm in rehearsals, so I can't make out. I'm sad -- I love Utah, so...

Your first Sundance film was Brother to Brother, wasn't it?

Yeah, that was my first film, period. That was my first job.

You came to Sundance with that one, didn't you?

It went to Sundance, but I was working.

Jesus, Anthony! Don't you ever get to go to Sundance for your movies?

[Laughs] I went for Half-Nelson and I had a great time. The funniest thing I remember is just bumping into people randomly on the street -- Park City is such a small city, and when the festival's not there, it's empty. So you're just walking down the street in this little town and you bump into everybody you know in the business.

Hollywood can be a small city, too.

Exactly. That's why I live in New York.

Tell me about your character in Night Catches Us.

I play a guy who just moved back home. He's a former member of the Black Panther party, and now he's moving home and dealing with the history of what happened when he left and the recent passing of his father. There are a lot of things competing against him every day. The great thing about the character is that even when he was a Panther, he still had an overall understanding and appreciation for life, like most Panthers did. It's just that in any movement, the older generation and the younger generation don't always see eye to eye -- that's kind of what we touch on in the movie.


Did you get involved with Night Catches Us when it was still being developed at the Sundance Institute?

No, I wasn't. I wasn't involved in it until the original actors she'd picked dropped out. [Laughs] I'll send them a good Christmas gift.

Your character is reuniting with Kerry Washington's, and you yourself are reuniting with Kerry after making She Hate Me with her almost six years ago. Have either of you changed much in the meantime?

[Laughs] We've definitely changed since She Hate Me. The great thing about Kerry is that she's such a sweet, warm person, so every time you see her, even if you hadn't seen in her in ten years, it feels like no time has passed. It's always great to work with Kerry -- we have a great working relationship, and she always brings the hammer when she comes to set.

Does it worry you to make films with no distribution upfront?

You know, to be honest, I believe in my talent. I believe in what I do, and I only work with people if I believe in their talent. Like, if Spielberg is doing a film and I think the film is trash, I'm definitely not going to be a part of that film. You know what I mean? In the careers we choose -- especially in a career like this -- you only have one shot if you're a young actor. They can put you off to the wayside and go with the next guy, so you have to choose your projects wisely and for specific reasons. All the projects that I've chosen -- whether they've turned out good or bad -- you can look at them on paper and see why I chose them.

So when you chose The Hurt Locker, did you think it would end up with all this awards attention?

Not at all, not at all. When you're making a film in the desert of Jordan in 120 degrees and just trying to stay alive...if anybody has said, from the writer to the producer to the actors, that when we started on this film they saw it as an Academy Award film, that's a damn lie. [Laughs] There were days out in the desert when people just wanted to pack up and go home.

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  • JAB says:

    I'm rooting hard for this movie to take home as many Oscars as it can. I feel that Mackie & Gerraghty should've earned supporting noms. Renner steals the show (& should win the Oscar for best lead) but he doesn't do it without Mackie & Gerraghty. If Bieglow wins then Mackie is right. She'll win because she did the best job directing the best movie of '09. (Sorry Jason Reitman becasue I think you directed the other "truly great" movie of '09.)